Ceiling cracked not shattered

July 2, 2004

As someone who has been researching (and living) equality issues in higher education, I was pleased to read the headline on the front page of last week's Times Higher - "Women crack glass ceiling" (June 25).

Having produced a (Higher Education Funding Council for England-funded) resources pack for managing equality and diversity in the sector as well as a database of good practice, both of which have been well received, it is clear to me that there is a definite will to engage with systemic and long-standing problems of gender inequality and discrimination.

But the headline somewhat glosses the substance of the article, which not only makes clear that women still account for only 13 per cent of professors but also that women's career success is influenced by their discipline.

But the most interesting aspect of the apparent reversal in women's academic fortunes is the falling numbers of men achieving promotion and/or entering the profession. The question is, did they jump or were they pushed? It could be, as your leader suggests, that men are ditching the academy and taking up more lucrative and less demanding careers where they again feel valued (women, poor saps, are too stupid/thankful for the opportunities left in men's wake to make such moves). But then again it could be that women are just better, and giving us a fair chance to compete results in more women than men getting appointed.

I can't help feeling that not all the 87 per cent of male professors obtained their promotions on merit alone, but perhaps that's just me being biased.

Karen Ross
Reader in mass communication
Coventry University

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